Old Mammalian Mind

QM and Ugliness as Evil

A pretty little girl, about five years old, was out shopping with her attractive, well-dressed mother. The mother, who appeared rather in a hurry, was trying to get the girl to go with her more quickly. The girl, whose energy seemed to be drooping, resisted her mother’s verbal and slightly physical encouragement. Mother insisted, the girl dug in her heels and resisted. The mother became more impatient, the girl became more obstreperous. After a few more moments of their tug-of-war standoff, the mother’s patience was exhausted. Facing down the little girl, the mother invoked what was apparently her gravest condemnation of the girl’s behavior: “Don’t act ugly!” The child instantly caved. With all of the fight wrung out of her, she docilely allowed her mother to lead her off to the very important next thing.

That scene occurred more than 40 years ago, but I never forgot it. I wondered if anyone else would find this little drama to be as significant as I apparently had. And why was it so important to me? Could the girl have some kind of harmful, long-term effects because of the mother’s accusation that she was being “ugly?” Unbeknownst to me at the time, the quadrune mind model would answer my questions (see the “Old Mammalian” section of page 9 in the Study Guide).

Recently I was visiting with an acquaintance, exchanging casual conversation. She mentioned that she had visited San Francisco that summer. She spoke of the typical sightseeing wonders of the Bay Area that she had enjoyed. I mentioned that she certainly must have had a wonderfully pleasant trip. This woman, probably in her late forties, then complained that it would have been wonderful except it had been ruined for her because of the ugliness of the many homeless people loitering around the places she wanted to visit. She described her vacation enjoyment as being spoiled by the unpleasantness of seeing those people everywhere. Involuntarily, I flashed back to the little girl acting “ugly,” who might have grown up to be this woman in front of me forty years later.

The quadrune mind model connects these two events from a neurospiritual perspective. The mother’s behavior toward her daughter and my acquaintance’s emotional reaction toward the homeless people of San Francisco both represent a primitive, pre-Human, old mammalian mentality. The model explains how ugliness can become associated with evil in the mind of an adult who is stuck in the childish, emotional, old mammalian mentality. From this OM mentality, a person is neurologically unable to see people as human beings if they have an unpleasant appearance. On an emotional level, a person operating from the old mammalian mind will write off those they see as “ugly” because they are not members of their “pretty” tribe. They will be summarily dismissed as belonging to that category of things, which are unfortunately part of the world, called “The Uglies.”

The word “ugly” comes from the Old Norse uggligr, which meant “fearful” or “dreadful.” In English, it now means something “very unpleasant to the sight.” The old mammalian-minded person is primarily concerned with emotional attachment to her group (herd) as well as wanting to avoid anything emotionally unpleasant or unattractive. Anything that creates emotional discomfort for an OM-minded person is considered a “bad” or even “evil” thing to be justifiably avoided. “Ugly” then represents anything that the old mammalian person experiences as emotionally unpleasant. Therefore, the OM-minded mother can say to her obstreperous young daughter, “Stop acting ugly!” with some conviction. Because this mentality is pre-rational, statements of ugliness do not need to make logical sense. The unsaid “or else,” which the girl understands intensely on an emotional level, is, “I will stop loving you and you will be kicked out of our family group (and die)!”

An excellent example of a herd-related emotional reaction to the Uglies is the nineteenth century Chicago “unsightly beggar ordinances,” discussed by Patricia Leigh Brown in her New York Times article on disability. These city statutes barred from public view any person “who is diseased, maimed, mutilated or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object.” For the old mammalian person, to see a disabled person and feel uncomfortable is an automatic dehumanizing response to the other person, as well as to one’s self.

(The Chicago “unsightly beggar ordinances” stayed on the books from 1881-1974. Chicago was one of several cities to pass such ordinances, which came to be called “ugly laws.” Coincidentally, the first “ugly law” was passed in San Francisco, only two years after the end of the Civil War. Elizabeth Greiwe shares some fascinating stories of the history of this ordinance, from the reportedly fraudulent to the painfully tragic, in her Chicago Tribune article on the topic.)

Of course, if ugliness bars other people from being part of the human herd, then anything we consider within ourselves as “ugly” must prevent us, as well, from belonging to the human race. To not belong to the human race would be to exist without a soul. As long as we live in the OM mindset, we must constantly be vigilant to hide anything about ourselves from other people that might be viewed by them as ugliness. The behaviors and character traits that would be included are limited only by our imaginations. Ugliness might be associated with emotions, such as anger or fear, or behaviors, such as clumsiness or acts of independence. Almost anything not considered within the social norm, i.e., “normal,” by the culture’s dominant upper classes could be grounds for disqualification as a human being. Such characteristics might include homosexuality, so-called physical or intellectual disabilities, facial disfigurements, obesity, skin color, poverty, and homelessness.

In order to grow toward a Human mentality in the quadrune mind model, we must learn to love and care for that which some might call “ugly,” both in the external world and within ourselves. The ultimate goal of developing into an adult Human is to promote healing and reduce suffering. Denying our time and attention from that which is seen as “ugly” only perpetuates suffering. When we dehumanize the ugly in ourselves, we feel hollow, depressed, and confused. When we demonize it as a society, we are left with struggling communities full of hate and anger. Conversely, when we embrace the rejected parts of ourselves and society is when we will find internal meaning and peace and live in flourishing communities that provide comfort for all.

Underlying the current calls for greater diversity and inclusion in organizations and more equity in society is the question of what mentality we are willing to live from. If we are content to settle with letting the old mammalian mind dominate in ourselves and our culture, we will never have inclusion, no matter how good the rational arguments are for it. That is because our emotional mind cannot tolerate that which is different; that which is ugly to us. Being pre-rational, the OM mind cannot understand the arguments it hears to care more for the “other.” Rather, it can only feel the discomfort of seeing what it does not want to see.

On the other hand, if we practice in ourselves the will to love that which is different, if we create a safe space for those we know to reveal their “ugly” side without punishment, if we lead by example and treat those marginalized by the majority with compassion, recognizing their inalienable humanity, we will grow into our Human mind. In the process, we will move society as a whole closer to operating from an adult mentality. When the Human mind comes to dominate in our organizations and communities, then greater diversity, inclusion, and equity will be the inevitable result.

Postscript, August 29, 2021: Since writing this post we have been reminded of the inappropriate use of the term “race” and its derivatives when referring to humanity. See our QM, the Strategic Error Made by “Anti-Racists,” and the Mind of a Bigot post, including the comments section for more information regarding our position on this matter.